What was once a small, useless hallway at Wedgwood Elementary School is now a creative space for students to learn, grow and have fun. Last week, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to officially open the Lego makerspace to the students and staff.
“At certain points in the day they’ll be able to sign out of their class, come down here under adult supervision and play, create and build,” Wedgwood Principal Charles Zimmerman said. “They can use different muscles in their mind to learn. We wanted to take this hallway, which wasn’t used for anything other than storage, and use it as a place to come, learn and play. That’s the genesis of that.”
Zimmerman, alongside Wedgwood math teacher Domenick Renzi, brought the idea for a Lego makerspace to life.
“This idea came about last summer,” Renzi recalled. “As a former Gloucester County Teacher of the Year, I had the opportunity to visit a lot of schools and some had these makerspaces. They were all different types of things. I came up with the idea that it would be great if we had a Lego makerspace since I’m a fan of Lego.”
Through support of the board of education, a grant for $420 and donations, the Lego makerspace came to life. The hallway was painted Lego yellow and has four mounted Lego boards for children to use. Ledges are installed underneath to store the Lego pieces.
The ability to hit a wide variety of ages is what made the Lego makerspace ideal, in Zimmerman’s opinion.
“Legos are great in that they’re a universal building tool. They’re a building tool that’s scalable,” Zimmerman said. “Your youngest of learners can operate them, build and create with them, and your oldest learners, who are more sophisticated and further along, can do more sophisticated things with them.”
Renzi built on Zimmerman’s statement.
“This is an area that allows the students to see education in a different way,” he began. “They’re allowed to come here to create, to share, to tinker and use the different pieces to create different things and allow their mind to explore, let the imagination run wild. At the same time, they’re learning.”
Teachers will know when they can and can’t send students to the makerspace. A faculty member will be watching the area checking kids in. There is a list of guidelines at the entrance for the students to follow. It starts with “Be kind,” be willing to create, share and build with another student. The next is “Be neat,” be willing to create, share and build with another student. Following is “Be safe,” you must be with an adult to enter and use the area. “Be responsible” is next, all Lego pieces are to remain in this area. Finally, “Be famous,” the creations belong to this Lego makerspace for all to see, they may also be taken apart by another student to make another creation.
Once the ribbon hit the floor, the makerspace was open for the first time to a select group of students. Among them was fifth-grader Vince Valentino, who was excited to have the area to build with Lego. Second-grader Shane Miller, a regular at “Total Brick” at Total Turf in Pitman, is a young expert in Lego, was in attendance as well. His favorite part of playing with Lego is seeing his creation upon completion.
“How you can make it and how cool it comes out after you make it,” Miller said of building with Lego.
With this project up and running, other elementary schools in the district could follow suit.
“We had discussions about creating similar spaces in other schools,” Zimmerman said. “With us sort of presenting lessons learned as we create a space like this you learn how to do it best and you can offer that feedback to other schools.”